For many years guitarists have been asking for a totally authentic replica of Brian May's legendary Red Special guitar. A very early attempt at this was by luthier John Birch, who famously built Brian a blonde/gold replica of the Red Special as a back-up. The guitar never worked for Brian, suffering from terrible tuning issues, and eventually was snapped during a frustrating solo spot at a Queen concert. The next attempt at a more authentic replica came in the early 1990s when Guild released the BM01. This was a more accurate version than the first run of Kahler loaded Guilds produced around 1984, in both construction and styling.Â But although the new Guild featured a more authentic tremolo and a chambered body, it still fell short of the fans' expectations, with a lack of attention to detail being betrayed by unauthentic features including a smaller neck, edge binding on the scratch plate and Seymour Duncan replica Tri-Sonic pickups.
Later came the release of first the Burns Special and then the BMG Special, so it seemed that a totally accurate production model was never going to be. Some individual luthiers built Red Special guitars with Brian's endorsement, including Greg Fryer, and Andrew Guyton. These builders offered exquisite totally accurate replicas that Brian himself played, but they were restricted to limited numbers, and would cost you as much as a small new car if you ordered one. So the fans turned to unofficial builders who offered a more authentic version of the Red Special at more sedate prices. One such luthier from Japan was Kazutaka Ijuin of KZ Guitars who was producing very accurate and beautifully built unofficial replicas. BM Guitars enlisted him and along with Greg Fryer they designed the original run of Supers, that were manufactured by KZ in Japan.
That Original Super was hugely successful with the fans, and Brian himself used one on tour. But the guitar was only available for a short period before production halted.
Fast-forward to 2015 and a new builder in the Czech Republic joined forces with BM Guitars, and the second edition Super became available. I had personally been talking to Barry Moorhouse at House Music (which looks after BMG) since the tail end of 2014 when I heard that the new Super was going into production. I had been using an original KZ/Fryer Super on the We Will Rock You German tour since 2012, and was very keen to see and hear how the new Super would stand up against the original Super. As you can imagine, I was keen to get the guitar into the pages of Guitar Interactive to give you a closer look and compare it to the original, along with the BM Special, which has its own review in this issue.
Comparisons are never easy but I have been lucky enough to have played the original Red Special, built by Brian and his father, on numerous occasions and I have also played one of Brian's Fryer replicas. As well as this I have also borrowed Brian's green Guyton replica when I toured with Brian May and Kerry Ellis, so I have a pretty good idea of how all of them feel and play, which I've borne closely in mind while playing this latest Super.
To start with, visually the BMG Super is very authentic looking, with a more accurate red colour than the BMG Special boasts. For the real devotee, this shade is based on the red wood dye and layers of Rustin's Plastic Coating that Brian and his father had applied to the original. The scratch plate and tremolo are also pretty much the same as on the original. As with the BMG Special, there are few differences that make that make the guitar more cost effective, as you might expect. BM Guitars say the Super is meant to bridge the gap between the very affordable BM Special, and the exquisite and 'reassuringly expensive' Guyton.
Starting with the body, the Super is constructed from two-piece quarter sawn mahogany, with a two-piece quarter sawn, book matched mahogany top. The dimensions of the body are faithful to the original RS, with some slight modifications to the acoustic chambers and the control cavity. The body is coloured with an attractive antique cherry stain and features a white double edge binding.
The headstock and fingerboard radius are also faithful to the original Red Special, as is the neck profile, which is very chunky! The neck however is glued on, as opposed to the single large bolt on Brian's 'Old Lady'. BM Guitars has also opted for a clear lacquered ebony fretboard as opposed to painted oak on the original - a choice not many would argue with!
The guitar features 24 frets and a zero fret which are Dunlop 6130s, with a Graph Tech Black TUSQ-XL nut. The fingerboard features attractive mother of pearl face and side dot markers; Brian made his dot markers from shirt buttons from his mother's sewing box, saving the most colourful markers for the 24th fret! The headstock matches the exact dimensions and angle of Brian's 'Old Lady', which aids straight string pull for excellent tuning stability. The headstock houses six Gotoh Magnum Lock machine heads, three on each side. The headstock is decorated with a mother of pearl 'May Star'